Several years ago, I was visiting a friend, Randall M. in Tyler, Texas, during the holiday season stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had an interview and some touring scheduled in the area for upcoming articles. While there, Randall, a U.S. Army veteran, was great about hosting tours for me when I was in the area. He was still active Army reserve and also a history teacher and athletic coach at a nearby high school.
Randall, like so many veterans who’ve spent months and months in foreign lands, is no stranger to spending holidays far from home. That visit, he told me a Christmas story I’ve never forgotten. about that very thing,
He was with several other veterans, shipping home for Christmas after spending many months in a foreign desert. The group diminished each phase of the journey, especially after they were stateside.
The last leg was a multi-hour bus ride into southern Texas. There were less than thirty of them by then. After arriving in a small, dusty town, the remaining soldiers grabbed their gear and disembarked, moving to greet waiting family and friends. Randall’s parents were among those waiting, having driven several hours to meet him and take him home for Christmas before he deployed again.
All of the vets had someone to meet them except for one young soldier.
As the station cleared, still no one showed to greet him. He said goodbye to the folks he’d travelled with and before long, the only ones left in the station were Randall and Randall’s parents and him. He had no vehicle to leave in, and the tiny bus station had no car rental service nearby.
Randall and his parents stayed a long while, doing their best to convince the young soldier to travel home with them; assuring him they would love to have him stay with them for the holidays. There was more than enough room, food and cheer to share with him, but he shyly insisted he was okay staying there on his own. He said he'd notified a friend who was supposed to pick him up and that surely he’d arrive soon, although they’d been waiting for a long time already and the friend hadn’t responded to any of his calls.
With the day getting on, and a several hour trip ahead of them, Randall’s family finally left to make their way home to Tyler with the young soldier assuring them he would be okay on his own. As they drove away, he sat on the curb near the station, his duffle bag next to him, waiting for his ride.
Randall said it was such a sad sight, and the whole trip, he was concerned for the young man. He said in the military, the young man was like many others he’d met during his Army career, with no close family of their own. Many were from foster homes who had no memory of parents, grandparents or siblings. Others had started with single parent, grandparent or other relative raising them, and then they’d fallen ill and could no longer care for them, or had died, leaving them alone.
Soldiers’ Angels is one of my all time favorite, not for profit support programs for veterans and veterans families. Their motto is, “May no soldier go unloved.”
To date, this group has sent hundreds of thousands of care packages and millions of cards and letters to adopted deployed service men and women around the world. They offer far more services and resources but those are two that are well worth highlighting.
If you’re on limited resources, you don’t have to adopt on your own. Share the joy with friends, family, or church group. Another option is to get some residents of local retirement homes or convalescent centers involved. Many times you’ll find veterans, wives and children of veterans in these places that love the opportunity to connect and lend encouragement and love to soldiers. It’s a win-win situation.
Often you can even speak with activity and social services directors in these facilities who will take it on as a regular activity for the residents and lend a hand with anyone who wants to get involved in sending cards, letters, cookies and other care package items to soldiers, who will love and appreciate the gifts and the folks who cared enough to send them.
Local clubs and organizations are other great resources to partner with in reaching out to soldiers.
Last, Christmas isn’t the only time of year this can happen. It could (and should) be a year-round endeavor, but one especially engaged in at Christmas.
Hope you’ll make it a point to send a hug and spread some cheer to these special folks who make sacrifices for so many of us. If you need a place to start, I hope you’ll visit the Soldiers’ Angels website and see what they’ve got that you find do-able, or at least get some ideas of your own going with ways to be a part of something wonderful.
That's it for this one!
God bless you, thanks for the read and see you next week!
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